The most prestigious award in sports is both magnificent and mysterious. And the process to determine a Heisman winner remains remarkably imperfect.
There are too many voters. There is too much weight put on quarterbacks. Certain players from certain programs are essentially removed from consideration before the season begins because of the logo on their helmets.
All these elements, of course, make betting on the Heisman a challenging yearly exercise. However, with the season barreling down, that is precisely what we've set out to do.
If you've hung around these parts for a while, perhaps you know the Locks of the Week routine. Each week during the college football season, we pick games against the spread, tracking the performance throughout.
Locks of the Week takes on different shapes. Beyond the Heisman, we’ll have other betting previews in the weeks ahead.
Oh, and you better believe we'll have picks for Week 0.
With that, here are our Heisman picks for the 2023 season. Let's start with the chalk and work our way down the odds board.
Odds via DraftKings and accurate as of Wednesday, August 3.
Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud (+225)
The betting favorite to win the Heisman is also my favorite.
Now, let me be clear. I don't normally advise betting this kind of chalk to win the award. College football is random, and more value is typically necessary.
Stroud, however, is a pretty clear choice to win the Heisman. Although he lost his two top wideouts, the returning group, led by the ridiculous Jaxon Smith-Njigba, should be superb.
He plays behind an excellent offensive line. He has an uber-talented running back, TreVeyon Henderson, playing behind him. Oh, and he plays for an offensive-minded coach.
Stroud finished fourth in voting last season, and he was a heavy favorite to win the award toward the end of the year. Ohio State's loss to Michigan and Bryce Young's unbelievable performance against Georgia ultimately derailed that campaign.
This year could be different. Better yet, it should be different. Stroud should be better, more experienced and in a position to build on a 44-touchdown season in his first year under center.
All the pieces are in place.
Alabama LB Will Anderson Jr. (+2000)
It is wonderful to see a defensive player in the top five of the odds board, although Anderson is a unicorn in every way imaginable.
The best player in college football finished the season with 33.5 tackles for loss. Devin Lloyd, who finished second in the category, ended the year with 22 TFLs. Anderson's 17.5 sacks were also tops in CFB.
The question isn't talent or even production. Both of those elements should be on display. No, this is a matter of voter acceptance.
Anderson finished fifth in Heisman voting last year, earning 31 first-place votes. He split the voting with his starting quarterback, Bryce Young, and that could be the case again.
Still, Anderson is one of the most hyped defensive prospects the sport has ever seen and plays for a team that is likely to compete for a national championship.
Will Heisman voters finally recognize and appreciate defensive brilliance at the level necessary to win the award? That's the question.
If Anderson delivers a season anything close to what we saw in 2021, however, his campaign will be impossible to ignore.
Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke (+3500)
Few quarterbacks ended last season with the momentum that Van Dyke captured. The third-year sophomore was thrown into action when D'Eriq King was injured after three weeks, and he delivered almost immediately.
Van Dyke accounted for at least three touchdowns and 300 passing yards in the last six games of the season.
When you consider his continued maturation and the arrival of Josh Gattis, Miami's superb new OC, it's reasonable to assume that Van Dyke should be better.
He will have to acclimate to new weapons, although there are a fair number of options to work with. Having Mario Cristobal as a head coach will add stability to a program that desperately needs it.
The biggest question for Van Dyke is perhaps the most important one for any Heisman campaign: Can Miami win enough games?
Although the Hurricanes fired Manny Diaz at the end of last season, they closed the year by winning five of the final six games. This year's schedule is favorable and should position Van Dyke to stay in the conversation.
If Miami wins, Van Dyke will stay in this race. And at 35-1 odds, it seems like solid value for a QB who is just scratching the surface of what he is likely to become.
Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen (+6000)
Full disclosure: I watched Allen workout this past offseason at a gym just outside of Milwaukee. To say I left impressed would be an understatement. Allen isn't just a running back—he's a truly unique athlete poised for superstardom.
The running back left high school early last year, although you wouldn't know that by looking at him. The 6'2" RB weighs somewhere in the range of 240 pounds and ran for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns despite carrying it 186 times.
He'll be asked to do much more this year, and there's no reason he shouldn't be up for it.
Allen will be the feature piece of a team poised to crack the Big Ten Championship Game. If the defense plays as many expect it to be—and the passing game improves—the Badgers should be positioned for a big year. (To win the Heisman, this part is necessary.)
If Allen stays healthy, the numbers will be there. While it’s become somewhat normal in Madison for backs to post gaudy numbers, Allen’s performance, given his unique build and abilities, could be overwhelming.
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